Court Rules that FAA Cannot Ban Commercial Drones, Dismisses $10,000 Fine for Drone User
March 7, 2014 1:14 PM
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The FAA is currently working on regulations that would allow drone deliveries without putting the public or manned aircraft in danger
Amazon may be able to
get its drones up in the air
after all, as a recent court case found that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lacks the authority to ban the commercial use of drones in the continental U.S.
, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) administration law judge found that the FAA shouldn’t have fined a man $10,000 because his drone was no different than a model aircraft.
Raphael Pirker, an aerial photographer, flew a small drone near the University of Virginia while making a commercial video in October 2011. The FAA fined Pirker $10,000 in an attempt to regulate commercial uses of small drones in U.S. airspace.
Pirker then appealed the fine, and the court found that the FAA doesn’t have any regulations that govern model aircraft flights or those that classify model aircraft as an "unmanned aircraft." In other words, the line between drone and toy hasn't been drawn.
The FAA successfully banned the commercial use of unmanned aircraft over the U.S. airspace (until it develops rules for their part in the national airspace, at least), but there are no clear-cut rules for commercial drone use. In fact, the FAA is considering dealing with the drones on a case-by-case basis. In this case, it wasn't clear if it was an unmanned drone or toy plane.
The FAA believes that it should be able to ban drone flights because it has the power to regulate access to the national airspace.
The FAA isn't completely against commercial drones. In fact, it's currently working on regulations that would allow drone deliveries, thanks to a law passed by Congress in 2012 that told the FAA to have the rules ready by September 2015. But since those regulations are not yet complete, the subject is a huge grey area for now.
In December 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said he wanted to use
unmanned "Prime Air" drones
for small package delivery. Bezos said the company is currently testing unmanned, octocopter drones called "Prime Air" that have the ability to deliver small packages to customers in just 30 minutes.
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Academy of Model Aeronautics
3/9/2014 5:23:14 PM
Many people are unaware of the Academy of Model Aeronautics which is also known to modelers as the AMA. The AMA provides many benefits to Radio Control fliers in the form of liability insurance, flying field acquisition, flight safety rules, flying club charters, flying contests and organizational expertise.
The point of bringing this up is that there is already an organization that works closely with both the FCC and FAA to provide the hobbyist with a safe and enjoyable experience.
Herein lies the problem the real problem with "drones". In the past, it took time to learn the skills needed to fly safely and these skills were ususally learned as a at an AMA club field. The AMA has always treated safety as paramount.
In the last few years, electronics have allowed individuals to take up the flying of "drones" without having to learn safety or flying skills through the AMA club environment. This has resulted in flights, both hobbyist and commerical, that are just plain unsafe.
It is not safe to fly any aircraft at a crowded park or campus. You need room to be safe. So it was with amazement that I read that the aircraft of point in this article was flown in the presence of unsuspecting individuals. This is the real problem, that people will fly without taking safety into account. I believe that the best way to solve the flight safety issues associated with "drones" can be solved through the FAA, the FCC and AMA working together on safety rules.
Privacy is an entirely separate issue from flight safety and is, I believe, adequately covered by current laws.
Just for the record, I have been an AMA member since 1973.
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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